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Monsal Head

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Monsal Head


Published February 8, 2015


Monsal Head – Railway Viaduct and Tunnel Improvisation

This well known area of the Derbyshire Peak District National Park in the UK, features a disused railway line, viaduct and tunnels now converted to a cycle track, which is part of the Monsal Trail. The Headstone Viaduct,  some 12m (approx. 40ft) high at the centre, was the route of the former Midland Railway,which passes under the side of the valley at Monsal Head through the recently restored (487m 533yard) Headstone Tunnel.

The sound work starts with a windy walk-in from Monsal Head Hotel car park down to the railway viaduct, followed by improvisations with metal railings and stones, wooden fencing and the tourist information panel on the viaduct.  After some passing cyclists, the improvisation continues with a walk through the Headstone Tunnel featuring intuitive hand and foot improvisation using the tunnel bed, remnants of track gravel, found stones and wet and dry tunnel surfaces. At the far end of the tunnel some extended improvisation with metalwork fences and fittings occurs, then a rapid walk back through the tunnel, some further improvisation on metal fittings at the entrance, and a finale on the viaduct just outside the entrance of the tunnel. This minimally edited binaural sound work is presented in real time using only natural acoustics and without layering or mixing of sounds.

In this environmental work I have returned to an earlier format, hence the journey is conveyed in real time, is more 'primitive', in the sense of being minimally edited, and is presented as a single take. This 'longer form' demands more from the listener who must accompany me on the journey of my personal moment by moment occupation and discovery of this location with the resulting sonic exploration, intervention and engagement with the physical elements of this place. The work contains strong wind noise and some ear turbulence elements, (it was a windy day) extended periods of walking through the environment with pauses at various places where interaction and improvisation occurred along the way. There are a few personal accidentals included. This is a direct and personal sonic record of my communion and engagement with the environment on the day.

I invite listeners to go out and commune sensitively and respectfully with the environment in their own way so that we may all develop a greater love and respect for it in these times of cataclysmic environmental change.

Performed and Recorded Sunday 7th December 2014, 8:30 – 10:00am in a single take.
Re-enactment for video Thursday 11th December 2014, 8:00am – 10:00am.

Technical: Recorded using in-ear custom modified DPA4060 microphones into a Tascam DR60D digital recorder with split gain recording. EQ and minimal editing using the SADiE 6 DAW platform.

Monsal Head statistics courtesy of Wikipedia internet accessed on 02/02/15.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Akio Suzuki for inspiration.

Recorded in binaural stereo optimized for headphone listening.

dallas simpson, 02/02/15



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